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Benchmark Hospitality Chefs to be Featured at
Acclaimed James Beard House, New York

Fourth Consecutive Year Chefs Invited to Cook the “Benchmark Holiday Dinner”

New York, November 2008 … Benchmark Hospitality International chefs from the company’s fine dining restaurants, luxury hotels and resorts in Colorado, Florida, Virginia and New Jersey have been invited by The James Beard Foundation to cook at the storied James Beard House in New York City.  The culinary event, a five-course dinner paired with fine wines, will take place Thursday, December 18th, 2008.  This is the fourth consecutive year that Benchmark Hospitality chefs have received the prestigious invitation from the James Beard organization. 

Featured Benchmark Hospitality chefs and culinary professionals include Brother Luck, executive sous chef for Cheyenne Mountain Resort and its signature Mountain View Restaurant, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado; David Rodriguez, executive chef at Costa d'Este Beach Resort and the property’s acclaimed restaurant, Oriente, in Vero Beach, Florida; Peter Carl, executive chef for Naples Bay Resort and its signature restaurant, Olio, located in Naples, Florida; and Konrad Meier, Benchmark’s lead executive chef for its national task force culinary team.  The Benchmark chefs will be assisted by Hassan Erroudani, director of food and beverage for The Heldrich and its signature restaurant, Christopher’s, located in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Mary Watson, Benchmark Hospitality’s sommelier at the company’s east coast flagship property, Lansdowne Resort and its award-winning restaurant, On the Potomac, located near Leesburg, Virginia, has paired each course with fine wines.  Included is her Signature Blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Tannat -- “Mary’s Cuvée” -- created by Ms. Watson and produced by Virginia’s award-winning Corcoran Vineyards.

The event, which is once again being presented as the “Benchmark Holiday Dinner,” will begin at 7:00 p.m on December 18th with an hors d'oeuvres and wine reception.  A five-course chefs’ tasting menu will be served starting at 8:00 p.m. Reservations can be arranged by calling the James Beard House at 212-627-2308 and are $125 per person for members of the James Beard Foundation and $165 per person for the general public. 

"We look forward to the opportunity to cook at the James Beard House and feel privileged to be welcomed back once again,” said Bob Zappatelli, vice president of food & beverage for Benchmark Hospitality International. "This is an honor for Benchmark Hospitality and for each of our chefs, who have created a marvelous menu, which our sommelier has paired with superb wines.   Once again, we believe it will set a new standard for holiday dining and culinary excellence.  We look forward to an exceptional evening at the James Beard House.”

"The Benchmark Hospitality chefs are part of the annual holiday celebration here at the James Beard House,” stated Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming for the James Beard Foundation.  “This is the fourth year we’ve invited them to cook the Benchmark Holiday Dinner -- a culinary event that sells out each year.  We’re thrilled to have them return to establish another new benchmark in holiday dining." 

The historic James Beard House was home to the renowned James Beard, who is fondly remembered as the dean of American Cookery.  Beard lived in his Greenwich Village townhouse from 1976 until his passing 1985. A gifted impresario who led the way for many of today’s celebrity chefs, James Beard established cooking schools and published over 20 important cookbooks, many of which are still in print.  As important, he left a legacy of culinary excellence and integrity for generations of America’s home cooks and professional chefs. Along with that of his close friend, Julie Child, his name remains synonymous with American cuisine. 

The Benchmark Holiday Dinner for 2008 



Hors d'oeuvres
Hudson Valley Foie Gras Stuffed Mission Figs
Rabbit Terrine with Ginger Carrot Air
Sea Scallops” Wellington” with Caviar Vinaigrette
Smoked Steelhead Trout “Burger” Blood Orange Ketchup
Turkish Date and Chevre Truffle with Pistachio


First Course
               Winter Squash Soup, Ricotta Dumplings, Cardoons, Anchovy Butter

Second Course
Sweet Cacao Butter Maine Lobster
Anise Spiced Pears, Whipped Yukon Potato, Roasted Fennel

Third Course
     Pork Belly and Water Melon Salad over Baby Swiss Chard and a Cantaloupe Coulis

Fourth Course
Roasted Rack of Venison
Mushroom Spätzle, Roasted Butternut Squash Flan
Huckleberry Reduction

Fifth Course
Brillat Savarin Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Poached Quail Egg and Roasted Golden Beets

Holiday Apple Sampler
Honey Crisp Apple Strudel
Candied Crab Apple
Calvados Ice Cream

Meet The Culinary Team

Brother Luck, C.E.C., Executive Sous Chef
Cheyenne Mountain Resort, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Brother Luck is the executive sous chef for Cheyenne Mountain Resort and its Mountain View Restaurant, an award-winning resort located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Chef Luck began his culinary career in his teens working at a local steakhouse.  Since his first experience in the restaurant’s kitchen, the culinary arts have been his life’s passion.  According to Chef Luck, “From the moment you awake to the moment you dream, it should never stop being about the food.”

Prior to joining Cheyenne Mountain Resort, Mr. Luck served as chef de cuisine with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.  His passion for food has garnered awards for the Compass Lounge, located in the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, and Antlers Lodge in the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa of San Antonio. 

David Rodriguez, Executive Chef
Costa d’Este Beach Resort, Vero Beach, Florida

David Rodriguez is the executive chef of Costa d'Este Beach Resort and its acclaimed restaurant, Oriente, located in Vero Beach, Florida.  The luxury property is by the internationally acclaimed recording artist/producer couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The menu of Oriente - named for the Oriente region of Cuba, pairs gourmet Cuban specialties with influences from Spanish, Latin, and Creole traditions. 

In preparation for his post, Chef Rodriguez, who is Cuban-American, fine-tuned his Cuban culinary repertoire at both Larios and Oriente, popular Cuban restaurants in Miami owned by the Estefans. 

Previously, Chef Rodriguez held a number of culinary posts in New Jersey, including as executive chef for Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, executive sous chef for the Palace at Somerset Park, and as chef at The Old Mill Inn in Basking Ridge.  He has also been chef for the acclaimed Dining Room at The Hilton Short Hills, and was chef at the Parsippany Hilton. Rodriguez launched his culinary career at the Rihga Royal Hotel in Manhattan. 

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef Rodriguez is a member of the American Culinary Federation and the renowned Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

Peter M. Carl, Executive Chef
Naples Bay Resort, Naples, Florida

Peter M. Carl, executive chef for Naples Bay Resort and its signature restaurant, Olio, is responsible for all aspects of the food and beverage program at the 20-acre luxury resort, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.  Olio on Naples Bay features an interior design inspired by California’s Napa Valley and presents a vast menu with a myriad of culinary delectables, including the freshest fish.

Prior to assuming his new post, Peter Carl was sous chef at Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel on O’ahu in Hawai’i, where he was responsible for all aspects of kitchen operations and menu planning for the MAC 24/7 restaurant. While there he also served as task force chef for other properties within the hotel ownership’s portfolio, implementing system-wide food and beverage standards. 

Previously, Mr. Carl served as chef de cuisine at Cucina Rustica and the Dining Room, both of which are located in the Lodge at Vail in Colorado. He also served as chef tournant for Chef David Burke at New York's famed Plaza Athénée hotel. 

Chef Carl gained extensive experience as lead line cook at Grouse Mountain Grill of Beaver Creek, Colorado; as line cook at Tra Vigne restaurant in Helena, California; and he apprenticed at the Michelin-starred Locanda restaurant in Puos d'Alpago, Italy.

A graduate of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, Peter Carl developed his appreciation for food while on a study-abroad program in Strasbourg - a region of France rich with culinary traditions and fine restaurants. Carl pursued his culinary education at Italy's Istituto Superiore di Gastronomia and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. 

Konrad Meier, Executive Chef
Lead Chef, National Task Force Food & Beverage Team
Benchmark Hospitality International, The Woodlands, Texas

Konrad Meier is lead executive chef for Benchmark Hospitality’s national task force food & beverage team, assisting the vice president of food & beverage with special events as well as hotel, resort and restaurant openings.

Chef Meier has served the Benchmark Hospitality organization as executive chef for the renowned Lansdowne Resort near Leesburg, Virginia.  In this role, Meier developed a unique teaching and demonstration program extremely popular with the resort's guests, and has also created a Culinary University curriculum, together with the resort’s sommelier, which is an intimate look at varying styles of cuisine. 

Meier has a distinguished background in the culinary arts, having worked at fine restaurants and hotels throughout the United States and abroad. He came to Benchmark Hospitality from Omni, where he was chef at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Previously, he served as executive chef at the Mid-America Club in Chicago and served in varied culinary capacities at both the Pittsburgh Vista Hotel and the Boston Vista International Waltham. 

Konrad Meier received his formal culinary training from the Culinary Institute, Lübeck, Germany, and served an apprenticeship at the Historische Weinstuben Restaurant, Lübeck, Germany, during his three year program at the Culinary Institute. 
Chef Meier was previously honored by Benchmark Hospitality International with the Leader of the Year Award for Lansdowne Resort, recognizing leadership and mentoring skills, community involvement as well as outstanding culinary knowledge and showmanship.

El Hassan Erroudani
Director of Food and Beverage
The Heldrich, New Brunswick, New Jersey

El Hassan Erroudani is director of food and beverage for The Heldrich, the new luxury hotel in revitalized New Brunswick, New Jersey.  In this role he oversees Christopher’s, the property’s signature restaurant and lounge.

A native of Morocco, Mr. Erroudani blends international culinary trends and experience into the food and beverage operations at The Heldrich.  He was previously chief operating officer of Karm LLC & Brittany Corporation in Orlando, responsible for the day-to-day management of the company’s successful stand-alone restaurant group. Mr. Erroudani has also held multiple executive-level positions with luxury properties across the United States for Hyatt Hotel & Resorts.

Hassan Erroudani earned his Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations from Mohammed V. University, the prestigious educational institution located in Agdal-Rabat, Morocco.  He is an active member of the Moroccan community within the United States and serves as president of the Moroccan American Chamber of Commerce.  Mr. Erroudani is a board member of the Arab American Community Center, as well as a board member of the Moroccan American Council. 

Mary Watson-DeLauder 
Sommelier, Lansdowne Resort, Leesburg, Virginia

Mary Watson-DeLauder is the award-winning resort sommelier at Lansdowne Resort and its popular On the Potomac restaurant of Leesburg, Virginia, Benchmark Hospitality’s east coast flagship property.  She has held this role for 14 years, garnering several awards along the way. 

During her tenure at Lansdowne Resort, Mary Watson has been instrumental in strengthening the resort’s and Benchmark’s relationships with signature wineries in Virginia, nationally and internationally.  She has developed an acclaimed curriculum of food & wine and Culinary University classes, which provide an in-depth look at a variety of American and International cuisine and wines. 
Ms. Watson has also developed the wine programs for Benchmark Hospitality International’s newest properties, including Costa d’Esta Beach Resort and its signature restaurant, Oriente, in Vero Beach, Florida; Naples Bay Resort and it restaurant. Olio, in Naples, Florida; and is developing the wine program for The Orchid, a luxury suites property under construction in Panama City, Panama. 

Mary Watson's expertise has been recognized nationally. She has been the recipient of the Wine Spectator award for the past 18 years, and has been featured nationally on NBC’s Today Show and in countless regional and national consumer and food & wine publications.  She is an active member of the Women Chef Restaurateurs, Knights of the Vine, Society of Wine Educators and the Virginia Viniferea Wine Growers Association.

Ms. Watson has received the Gold Cluster of Virginia Award and served as a judge for the Virginia Wine Growers Association Wine Competition, the American Wine Competition and the International Wine Competition.   She has served as sommelier for numerous events at the James Beard House in New York City. 

The James Beard Foundation, based in New York City, is the definitive culinary arts organization in the United States dedicated to showcasing American chefs' talents. It is named after the great American chef, Dean of American Cooking, and Father of American Gastronomy, James Beard, who authored over 20 cookbooks and hundreds of articles, many of which are still in print. Beard appeared on network television's first cookery program in the 1940s and established a renowned cooking school. The Foundation and The James Beard House, where chefs from around the world showcase their talents, are situated in Manhattan in Beard's original townhouse, located in Greenwich Village. 

The mission of The James Beard Foundation is to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of the nation's culinary excellence. The Foundation is a national not-for-profit ¬ 501(c)(3) organization. According to the James Beard Foundation, all performing artists deserve a great stage: Musicians have Carnegie Hall; Opera singers have The Metropolitan Opera House; and Chefs, Winemakers and Cookbook Authors have The James Beard House. More than 20 dinners, lunches and workshops are held each month at The James Beard House to showcase culinary artists from America and around the world. 

At Cheyenne Mountain Resort, the Four Diamond comfort and spectacular natural surroundings enhance a resort getaway and the productivity at a meeting. In an environment designed for focused and inspired thought, Cheyenne Mountain Resort takes the responsibility to recycle, reuse, and reduce very seriously. Located in beautiful Colorado Springs with its crisp, clean air and breathtaking scenery, Cheyenne Mountain Resort draws from the natural charm of the Rockies while providing exceptional amenities, activities and services. 

Whether it's an intimate escape, invigorating family getaway or inspirational business event, the resort is the perfect choice. Comfortably set in eight residential lodges, 316 guestrooms including five Presidential suites blend elegant luxury with rustic style.  Private balconies open to spectacular views of Cheyenne Mountain and the golf course. The impressive array of recreational facilities and leisure activities ranges from a championship Pete Dye-designed golf course to five swimming pools, 18 tennis courts, a Health & Fitness Center, an Aquatics Center and a 35-acre recreation lake where guests enjoy sailboards, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, volleyball on a sand beach, and catch-and-release fly fishing. For more information contact 719-538-4000 or toll-free 800-428-8886 or visit  Cheyenne Mountain Resort is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International. 

Costa d’Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach, Florida, is a chic, beachfront property redefining style, comfort and luxury on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Sumptuous accommodations, contemporary Cuban-fusion cuisine and discreetly attentive service, coupled with a fully equipped gym, bi-level Spa at Costa d’Este and stunning infinity edge pool, satisfy the most discerning world travelers. Costa d’Este is owned by the internationally acclaimed recording artist/producer couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan and is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International. For more information, visit or call toll-free 877-562-9919.

The 20-acre Naples Bay Resort is ideally situated on the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida. Guests at the Four Diamond-rated property can select from a choice of luxurious accommodations, including The Cottages, 108 two- and three-bedroom villas; and The Hotel, which features 65 designer-furnished, one- and two-bedroom suites and 20 guest rooms. Restaurants include Olio on Naples Bay, Bonefish Grill and Bluewater Bar & Grill. Recreation facilities include a spa and fitness center; full-service tennis center with six lighted, Har-Tru courts, pro shop and lessons; Pilates, aerobics and yoga classes; lagoon-style, lazy river, children and lap pools; and private cabanas. The resort’s 97-slip marina incorporates a Yacht Club, waterfront pool, ship’s store, fuel dock and rental boats, including 22-foot Kayot and 24-foot Everglades boats. 

Naples Bay Resort – a proud member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts – is located at 1500 Fifth Avenue South, Naples, Florida, 34102, and is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International.

The Heldrich is located in the cultural heart of New Jersey in New Brunswick.  The property is situated at 10 Livingston Avenue, just west of the important US Route 1 business corridor and four blocks from the News Brunswick Train Station (serving the Northeast Corridor:  Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington, DC) and close to Exit 9 of the NJ Turnpike.  It is 45 minutes outside New York City and has rail service to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).   The Heldrich features a 248-guestroom luxury hotel, Christopher’s Restaurant, serving freshly prepared specialties created in an exhibition kitchen to delight the most discriminating palate, Christopher’s Bar, and an elegant ballroom, ideal for social and corporate gatherings.  For more information on The Heldrich, call 732-729-4670 or visit   The Heldrich is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International. 

Lansdowne Resort - the capital region’s premier, full-service property, is managed by Benchmark Hospitality International. The resort is set on more than 500 acres of secluded countryside and features 305 guest rooms and suites, a multi-pool aquatic complex, 45 holes of golf, a 45,000-square-foot clubhouse, six dining facilities and Spa Minérale, a full-service spa that debuted in 2006.

Benchmark Hospitality International is a leader in the management and marketing of resorts, conference centers, hotels, and Personal Luxury Hotels™.  The privately held company, launched in 1980, is a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers.  Benchmark is a worldwide organization operating over 30 properties representing major metropolitan and resort destinations.   Benchmark's international headquarters is located in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston, with regional offices in New Jersey and Connecticut.  International offices are located in Tokyo, Japan and Santiago, Chile.  For locations of properties and additional information, visit 


Ken Ellens
Ken Ellens Communications 
201-758-2864 / 201-758-2865-Fax

Also See: Benchmark Hospitality Chefs Invited by The James Beard Foundation to Cook at the Prestigious James Beard House in Manhattan; Benchmark Holiday Dinner, Will Take Place on December 27, 2007 / November 2007
Benchmark Hospitality Chefs Invited to Cook 'Benchmark Holiday Dinner' James Beard House, New York / November 2006
Three Benchmark Hospitality Chefs Preparing Holiday Dinner at James Beard House in New York / November 2005



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